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spent at home in a kind of waking somnambulism, the effervescence ceased, his ideas assumed distinction, and the voluminous furnitnre with which he had filled the chainbers of his brain found their own pegs and corners.
Our philosopher of fourteen knew everything but what was before his eyes. He could not tell the difference between a vineyard and a field of wheat, and carefully preserved a Gourd for several days in a vase, being persuaded by his sister that it was an Indian Cactus. With a glimpse into futurity, he once cried out to his sisters, “you will one day see me renowned. However he paid dear for his prophesy, for on every occasion the mocking young damsels would accost him with assumed awe and low curtsies, hail to the GREAT Balzac,'
His family having left Tours to reside in Paris where his father had procured a lucrative situation, he passed through his collegiate course with success, and amused himself at home teaching bis sisters Latin, and classifying his increasing library. At twenty-one, his father examined him as to his choice of a profession; he answered • Literature.' 'But do you not know that if you wish to escape being a beggar in that line, you must be a king ?' 'Well, I will be a king.' We may see, said his mother,' that Monsieur has a decided taste for poverty.' Yes,' said the father, ' some people are persuaded that they should die in an hospital as a matter of course.' So the family left the city, Honoré only remaining, Ile patronised a garret, wrote the most amusing letters to his sisters on the discomforts of his residence, and contracted tooth-aches in his windy apartments, which never afterwards ceased troubling him at intervals. The first literary attempt was an unacted tragedy on the subject of Cromwell, and Charles I. Then in the midst of bodily suffering and dire poverty, he produced forty volumes of novels under the name of Lord R’hoone (anagram of Honoré) and Horace St. Aubin. Finding he was only breaking his head against a wall, he published with a friend's aid, the works of Molière in one volume with a preface by himself, and the works of Fontaine in a similar form; but the booksellers would not give their hands to the work, and he only suffered loss by his speculation.
His father, in order to turn his mind from literature in his own person, set him np as head of a printing establishment; the restraints inflicted on the press at the time soon obliged obliged him to dispose of his plant, and he took once more to literature with an additional amount of debt on his back. Le Dernier Chouan, published in 1827, brings him to notice at last, and he travels on in the high way of popularity but not independence.
Mirecourt here takes occassion to cudgel Jules Janin for his unjust and impudent criticisms, on his man, and classes his Comédie Humaine in eight divisions, Scénes de la Vie Privée, Scènes de la Vie de Province, Scènes de la Vie Parisienne, Scènes de la Vie Politique, Scènes de la Vie Militaire, Scènes de la Vie de Campagne, Etudes Philosophiques and Etudes Analytiques.
“ Balzac is the Benvenuto of modern literature; he carves out his books with admirable care ; all his sentences are chiselled. He excels (so to speak) in melting the materials of the passions, and casting his characters in bronze. Since Moliere, no author has had such success in the exploring of the human heart.
Woman, that eternal despair of the painter of manners, that fugi. tive and mysterious being, that flower of a thousand changing tints, that graceful cameleon with such varied and deceptive hues-woman has in him, found at once, her naturalist, her historian, her poet. She has revealed to him the secret of her joys and her woes ; she permits hiin to explain her airs and graces, her gossippings, her dis. dains, her preferences, her caprices, and her enjoyments. Every sentence of the great book, in which our mother Eve has written the first line, is faithfully translated by Balzac. He deciphers the most obscure hieroglyphics of sentiment; his lancet lays bare the most delicate fibres of thought. He dissects woman's heart, analyses all its pal. pitations, all its tender emotions. He exhibits in their exquisite and purest essence, the adorable qualities that distinguish them; then be searches out their defects, and seizes on them one by one with woj. derful insight. Shade succeeds to light, and sometimes we discover the demon under the form of an angel. Designs in smiles, perfidies in gesture, diplomacy in the glance,-nothing escapes this skilful anatomist: he seems to possess the key to all the mysteries of human
When we compare the women of Balzac to those of George Sand, we find them as different as sound logic from paradox, as truth from falsehood."
Now, with submission to our critic, and in our poor judg. ment, a man must be a moral monster to possess such qualities of penetration or intuitive knowledge as described above. A true man or true woman as God has formed them, will ever find it impossible to enter into the other's distinctive nature, and draw a faithful psychological picture thereof. Is it possible that a man sensible to feininine beauty, and whom no influence could possibly make fall in love with an ugly woman, could bring sensibly before his mind the processes going on in the heart of
yonder delicate lady, with her life and soul devoted to that swartby, rough-featured being, whose presence our sensitive critic can hardly tolerate within the compass of a small room.
A slight instance this, of what we wish to illustrate, but want of space prevents our enlarging on the subject. A graver cause of offence is given by Balzac, in the general cynical and sensual character of his writings. Human Passions are the prime movers in his Comédie Humaine ; there is no high presiding influence directing their operations for any purpose of good; and out of his scores of stories, and his five thousand personages (a curious admirer has settled them at that figure) there are very few ordinarily good men or women.
We mentioned in a former paper the least objectionable of his tales. We remember being particularly provoked by the conduct of one of them, not objectionable in other respects. He takes his personages, some of them worthy folk, others the reverse ; with defects and wants among some of the good characters, which only wait to be filled up and satisfied by the superfluities of the others. An amiable rich old maid, not so very old either, requires love for the good qualities of her person, not for her purse: a poor relative, who really loves her without her finding it out, will not tell her so for fear of being suspected of selfish views. So cross purposes increase; the worthless characters fare off best ; and those who deserve some happiness or comfort are punished, and disinherited, and drowned; there is not even the pleasure of a fine tragic effect, but all ends as fat, and wearisome, and dismal as a pauper's funeral.
Balzac and George Sand seem to have cordially disliked each other. He once observed, that nature, through soine slight inattention, created her of the neuter gender; and that what she chiefly needed was more trowsers and less style. Mirecourt warns his readers when perusing that lady's memoirs of her life (a work which he considers uncalled for, as far as the education of youth is concerned), not to trust blindly to her appreciation of his hero.
Balzac, according to our critic, was really one of the most unaffected, simple-minded, honest men that could be found, getting deeper into debt through desperate efforts to rid himself of it, and this despite his great popularity. The following extract will partially account for this phenomenon.
“He laboured with too good a conscience, and at too slow a pace; he was never satisfied with his success. When he had revised one of his romances, Pierrette, fourteen times, the printer observed, ' you will be at the expense of eighteen hnndred or two thousand francs for corrections.' .What matter ?' said he, 'go on ;' and the work saw its twenty-seventh revise before it was published.
Pierrette was dedicated to the accomplished lady (Mme. Eve de Hanska), who afterwards bore his name. He wished to convey to her the combined gift of talent and heart at the same time. The expense of the corrections exceeded the sale of the edition by three or four hundred francs. Certes, it was hard for him to pay his debts by such a procedure."
Contrary to the system of Elie Berthet, all of whose writings we can cordially recommend for perusal, but who gives the most accurate descriptions of vales of Andorre, La Vendee Marshes, Swiss vallies, Paris catacombs, Auvergne craters, &c., sitting on a low stool, and performing journeys from the folio in front to the quarto on his right hand,
Balzac would not mention a street nor an old building in a provincial town, without paying them a conscientious visit. Hence the wonderfully true pictures of the house Grandet in Saumur, the house Bouget at Issodun, &c.
“Chagrined beyond endurance by the clamours of his creditors, he resorted to his sister's family nearly every evening, for some little respite and consolation.
“Come my gazelles (so he called his nieces), said he one evening, give me paper and a pencil: quick! quick! They gave him what he demanded, and he spent an hour putting
down sums and adding them. Fifty nine thousand franes,' said he at last ; fifty nine thousand francs I owe; and what remains for me to do but blow out my brains, or throw myself into the Seine ?'. And the romance you have commenced for me,' said his niece weeping, will never be finished !' 'Ah! dear angel!' said he, “I was wrong to be so cast down; I will work for you, and that very thing will bring good luck. Away with sadness! It will be a chef d'oeuvre; I will get three thousand crowns for it. The publishers will give me fabulous prices ; I will pay my debts in two years ; I will put by a dower for you; I will become a peer of France. All that is settled: now let us to dinner.
And our boxes at the theatre, uncle?' * Here they are, just in my pocket; we'll go to the Gymnase. But you have no dress coat."
Surville (his brother in law) will lend me his: to the table with you my gazelles ;' and he kept them all laughing while striving to eat their dinner. Balzac forgot his debts, and the Bordeaux and the chesnuts were laid on the tables.
• Dress yourself uncle, we'll be late. Very well thought of, said he, rising and passing into the next room, to make his toilet.
• Balzac would never permit his nieces to read a romance of his except those he wrote expressly for thein, such as Ursule Mirouet.